The Il-2 Shturmovik is one of the most best known aircraft of the Second World War, famous for being produced in larger numbers than any other military aircraft, and for being incredibly robust, but hardly any English language books have been published on the aircraft (at the time of writing only three are listed by Amazon!).
This book goes a long way towards filling the gap. Rastrenin is an expert on Soviet attack aviation, and as a result his work is well supported by Soviet archive material and contemporary photographs.
The book is split into five major chapters. The first one, Strike Force Development, looks at the deployment of the Il-2 - the size and structure of the squadrons, the types of missions flow, the numbers of aircraft involved and their tactics. The remaining four chapters follow the Il-2 squadrons from the desperate defensive battles of 1941-2, through the turning point at Stalingrad and Kursk, and into the final campaigns of the war.
There is a good mix of photographs - of the aircraft on the ground, in the air, and in pieces, of individual officers and crews, and of damage inflicted by the Il-2. The photographs are supported by thirty two colour plates showing the paint schemes used on the Il-2 and by twenty four line drawings that illustrate the changing design of the Il-2.
The only real fault with this book is that while Rastrenin makes excellent use of Soviet archives, very little appears from German sources. This is particularly noticeable in the account of the fighting just before the battle of Kursk. German sources make it clear that Soviet air raids badly disrupted their plans for an aerial assault at the start of the battle, but the Soviet high command felt that too many Il-2s were lost and not enough damage inflicted, and it is the Soviet high command's view that is followed here. A few more German accounts of loses inflicted by the Il-2 would have been useful.
This does not detract from the great value of this book, which lifts part of the veil that has hidden the efforts and sacrifices of the Soviet air force for so long. Rastrenin's skillful use of wartime Soviet records and accounts means we get a rare insight into the contribution to victory made by the crews of the Il-2s.
Author: Oleg Rastrenin
Strike Force Development
Birth of a Legend
The Tide Turns
The Final Stages